If I had to pick the most inspiring talk from Config, it would be no other than Haraldur Thorleifsson’s amazing approach to life, design and resilience. For years, I concealed my disability, only sharing it with my closest friends. In the larger context of disabilities, mine is minor, allowing me to lead a fulfilling life. However, as someone with essential tremors—a physical disability causing uncontrollable shakes — I've developed a keen eye for design, particularly handheld objects. Today, I want to delve into a few areas of digital design that I've evolved in, which have greatly shaped me as a designer.
User-Centred Design: Not Just a Buzzword
My definition of user-centred design changed drastically after my diagnosis. Initially, I viewed the user as the most ordinary and typical individual, representing the everyday user. Designing for them seemed relatively easy.
I have gained a profound understanding of the true importance of exceptional user-centred design. It considers each unique user from the outset, creating an environment where diversity and inclusion can thrive, and ensuring that everyone feels welcomed and valued when engaging with the digital product.
A truly user-centred product is not only customisable but also meticulously crafted. Apple stands at the forefront of accessible design, and I highly recommend exploring its accessibility settings if you haven't already.
Attention to Detail: Don’t Overlook the Little Things
Given that my tremors primarily affect my hands, mobile-first is an outlook I pay extra attention to. I often encounter common interface mistakes, such as small buttons on mobile devices or insufficient spacing between touch targets. Having faced these challenges, I now understand how to design better and appreciate white space and perfect sizing.
My advice to any UX/UI designer is to test your Figma prototypes on mobile devices, ideally with a diverse range of testers, to ensure good accessibility. Opt for large CTA buttons and do not be afraid to allow space between elements. Remember, the more space the better. If you're unsure where to begin, the WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) serves as an excellent resource for designing accessible digital products. Pay particular attention to SC 2.5.8: Target Size (Minimum).
Empathy: Understanding & Empathising Through Personal Experience
Within the realm of UX, we are often reminded that empathy is crucial. However, I have observed that many designers lean towards sympathy rather than true empathy when considering users. Reflecting on this, I think I was one of them.
Claire Miller’s article in The New York Times, How to be More Empathetic explores various aspects of empathy and highlights the importance of acknowledging biases and checking your privilege. I, too, must admit that I was lacking true empathy until my change in circumstances. Now, I notice nuances I previously overlooked, exhibit greater patience and find myself relating all too often to individuals navigating challenges.